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WISCONSIN NEWS ROUND-UP: Eau Claire residents want to legalize bee keeping within city limits

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EAU CLAIRE - Over 500 people have signed petitions to legalize bee-keeping in Eau Claire.  The practice is not illegal, because the city has no ordinance which either accepts or bans it.  Still, an Eau Claire group called "Save the Bees" says urban bee-keeping can help keep the insects alive. 

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That's after a disease called "colony collapse disorder" put a big reduction in the U-S bee population.  Nicole Sorenson brought bee hives to the U-W Eau Claire campus four years ago.  She says they've done a great job showing students how honey is extracted, and why they're important for bio-diversity.  The "Save the Bees" group wants Eau Claire to create an ordinance similar to one that Madison established last year.  It requires that bee-hives be 25-feet from neighboring homes.

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Wisconsin U. S. Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) is reportedly meeting with House Republicans and President Obama tomorrow. Ryan says the President is giving Congress the “silent treatment”, when it comes to the looming debt ceiling. In a Wall Street Journal column, Ryan says both sides should come to a common-sense agreement to break the deadlock.

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Wisconsin's Sean Duffy is one of 10 Republican U.S House members being targeted by a liberal group for their connections to the Tea Party.  The Americans United for Change blames Tea Party lawmakers for the federal government shutdown, saying it has threatened people's benefits and put Americans out of work.  The outside Democratic group is airing TV aids in Duffy's district and nine others, showing an image of Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas.  The group said it bought the ads in districts where House incumbents are most vulnerable in next fall's elections.  Duffy, of Weston, is in his second two-year term representing north-central Wisconsin.  Andrea Bozek of the National Republican Congressional Committee calls the ads "laughable attacks."  She says GOP lawmakers have passed a number of measures to keep the government open.

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U.S. House Republican Sean Duffy of the Wausau area got into a verbal clash with veteran TV correspondent Andrea Mitchell over the federal shutdown.  That came yesterday on MSNBC.  It was the same day President Obama said he would negotiate spending issues with Republicans only after the two parties approve a continued spending package with no strings attached.  GOP House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said Obama wanted his party to cave into everything the president wants -- including the current start of the Obama-care health insurance exchanges.  On Mitchell's show, she scolded Duffy for making a quote, "non-negotiable demand" to hold up Obamacare.  Duffy responded that he only wanted the same type of delay for ordinary Americans that businesses got, when their mandate to provide health coverage was delayed by a year.  Duffy said Obama doesn't know what people are going through because he and his family have a quote, "gold-plated health care plan."  Mitchell said Duffy has the same thing -- and he corrected her, saying members of Congress get their coverage through the exchanges.  Duffy then scolded Mitchell and said the media should do its job.

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A hospital system in Wisconsin and three other states is cutting jobs.  SSM Health Care, which is based in Saint Louis, is announcing the cuts this week to its employees.  Out of respect for the workers, the company says it will wait a day-or-two before giving out further details.  SSM owns Saint Mary's Hospital in Madison, Saint Mary's in Janesville, and hospitals in Dodgeville, Stoughton, Columbus, and Baraboo.  Spokeswoman Kristen Johnson would not say why the layoffs are necessary.  Other large Midwest medical chains have blamed lower government reimbursements for Medicare patients, after the automatic sequester spending cuts from March.  They were the main reason that Wisconsin's Ministry Health Care cut up to 250 full-time-equivalent employees earlier this year.  S-S-M has a total of 18 hospitals, two nursing homes, and 150 out-patient clinics in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

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An emotional State Senator Bob Jauch  announced he would not seek re-election today. The 67-year-old Democrat from Poplar announced he would retire at the end of 2014. Jauch was first elected to the Assembly in 1982. He says after traveling almost 750,000 miles, being involved in several contentious issues, and maintaining the same amount of passion and intensity for 31 years, he's "worn out." 

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A new state audit is raising questions about reimbursement payments the Department of Children and Families made to agencies that find homes for foster kids. Green Bay State Senator Rob Cowles says there’s concerns about a lack of financial information to support nearly $130,000, paid to five companies between 2010 and 2012. In response, the department says it plans to follow-up with providers to resolve questionable claims and review its policies.

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On another split-party vote today, a state Assembly committee endorsed a bill making it much harder to force schools to drop their Indian nick-names and mascots.  The full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure next week, after the government operations panel recommended it on a 7-4 vote.  All Republicans voted yes.  All Democrats voted no.  The bill virtually guts a 2009 Democratic law in which the state's education agency takes complaints, then decides if school boards discriminate against Indians with their monikers.  The Republican bill makes Indians prove they've been hurt by discrimination, rather than school boards proving it doesn't happen.  The bill helps the Mukwonago School Board, which refuses to follow a state order to drop its Indians nickname.  The measure wipes out the state's order for that district and others.  Whitewater Republican Steve Nass said the current law lets only one person complain, and that person does not have to show a single instance in which he or she was offended.  Milwaukee Democrat Christine Sinicki says the law will let big crowds at high school games yell things like "slaughter the Apaches."  She calls that a step backward in race relations.

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Waukesha County's chief prosecutor is the first to enter the wide-open race for Wisconsin's attorney general in next fall's election.  Waukesha District Attorney Brad Schimel announced his bid to run for the seat that's being given up by fellow Republican J.B. Van Hollen.  Schimel said he has support of 17 other county district attorneys -- and he's overwhelmed by the numbers of law enforcement people coming out to support him.  Assembly Democrat Jon Richards of Milwaukee is still considering the possibility of entering the race.  State Professional Police union chief Jim Palmer says he thinking about running as an independent.

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It would be much harder to recall a Wisconsin politician from office, under a bill endorsed today by some of those incumbents.  The state Assembly Elections Committee voted 6-3 to prohibit recalls of state elected officials, unless they're charged with felonies or ethics violations.  The measure is a constitutional amendment that all Republicans supported, and all Democrats opposed.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said the bill was one of his top priorities, after his fellow Republican Scott Walker survived a recall election for governor last year -- and about a dozen senators had recall efforts thrown at them during the past two years.   Vos wants to end people's ability to seek a recall just because of the way an official votes on certain legislation.  At issue was how lawmakers voted on the 2011 law that virtually eliminated collective bargaining for most state and local public employee unions.  The amendment must pass both houses in two consecutive sessions, and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

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A new report shows that Wisconsin business executives are less optimistic than their national counterparts about U.S. economic growth over the next year.  The tax-and-consulting firm of McGladrey.  It said 56-percent of those surveyed in Wisconsin are somewhat optimistic about their prospects for growth over the next year -- six-percent fewer than the national figure of 62-percent.  Almost 21-percent of Wisconsin business leaders said they were very optimistic, compared to 22-percent nationally.  It's not a gloom-and-doom report, however.  Almost 40-percent of Wisconsin businesses said they were thriving right now, above the national number of 31-and-a-half percent.  Only about six-and-a-half percent of Wisconsin execs said their firms were in decline, less than the national total of almost seven-and-a-half percent.  Republican Governor Scott Walker attended the unveiling of the report in Milwaukee.  He said it shows that Wisconsin's on the right track in growing the economy.  The report said executives are impatient with results which are better than before -- but not at the point where they would feel comfortable investing.

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It's been a few years since U.S. Bank was headquartered in Milwaukee -- but it's still the bank of choice for almost one-of-every-five Wisconsin depositors.  The FDIC said U.S. Bank had $24.5 billion of deposits from Badger State residents as of June 30th.  That's down a little from the year before, when it had just over 26-and-a-half billion in deposits.  Still, the bank's market share is 18.9 percent.  U.S. Bank is now headquartered in Minneapolis.  BMO Harris Bank had $18-billion in Wisconsin deposits with a market share of 14-percent.  Associated Bank, the state's largest home-grown bank based in Green Bay, had the biggest percentage increase in its market share from eight-percent a year ago to almost 9.2 percent at the end of June.  The figures came from the FDIC's annual survey of bank deposits.

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Authorities have been looking for two men who flew a Madison woman to Saint Louis, and stole an expensive ring she was trying to sell on Craigslist.  KMOV-TV of Saint Louis said 32-year-old Emily Graham of Madison placed the ad, and then heard from a Saint Louis man who offered to buy the ring for $19,000.  He paid for her flight to Saint Louis, and had a car waiting at the airport.  Graham apparently thought the driver would take her to a jeweler.  Instead, she was driven to a deserted area where a second man pounded her in the head -- and then took her ring, laptop computer, shoes, and purse.  Police say they have a person-of-interest, but as of mid-day, no arrests had been made in the case.

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A private college in Sheboygan County will have their security guards carry guns starting next month.  Lakeland College of Plymouth has been considering the move for about a year, in response to gun violence at other schools.  Officers will wear 45-caliber Glocks as part of their uniforms.  Officials said the need was highlighted during an incident in May, in which a visitor to an athletic facility got into an argument with a student and later came back with a gun.  The episode ended with no one getting hurt.  Lakeland security chief Nate Dehne said the incident was the only gun-related scene he could remember in his 10 years on the campus.  However, he said it underscored the reality that no school is totally without risk.

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Sean Scallon
Sean Scallon has been a reporter and Sports Editor at the Pierce County Herald newspaper in Ellsworth since 1998. He holds a bachelors degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He's also worked at newspapers in Glenwood City, Wisconsin; Marion, Illinois and Shawano, Wisconsin. Sean also works as a sports reporter for other newspapers and websites in RiverTown Multimedia from River Falls to Hudson to New Richmond and Red Wing.
(715) 273-4334
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